The mountainous country that contains these wetter forests recieves on average over 1000mm of rainfall per annum. Tall and straight emergent eucalypts are dominant, and under this canopy smaller trees such as Silver Wattle, Sassafras and Hazel Pomaderris occur on a declining scale in terms of size. Ferns and smaller shrubs make up the lower stratum, with fallen timber, leaf litter and humus contributing to the rich moist soil.
We travel out to spots such as the Dandenong Ranges, Toolangi State Forest and Bunyip State Park. Most of the action in these areas occurs in spring and summer when birds are actively breeding and vocally advertising territories, and migratory species such as Satin Flycatcher, Rufous Fantail, Cicadabird, Black-faced Monarch and various cuckoo species are present.
Photo: Steve Davidson
Superb Lyrebird, Red-browed Treecreeper, Pink Robin, Rose Robin, Eastern Whipbird, Sooty Owl, Brush Cuckoo, Black-faced Monarch, Bassian Thrush, Pilotbird, Large-billed Scrub-wren, Olive Whistler, Satin Flycatcher (summer), Crescent Honeyeater, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Rufous Fantail (summer) and King Parrot.
Typified by rainfall averages of 300-600mm per annum, vegetation in these habitats is comprised of drier eucalypt communities with varied structural formations ranging from tall open forest with an under-storey stratum consisting of wattles, shrubs and herbaceous plants, or low woodland dominated by mallee eucalypts, or even grassy riparian woodland with River Red Gum as the dominant species alongside native grasses. These plant communities in turn also vary according to the geology and soil type of a given location.
As with wet forest habitats, different species can be found depending on the time of year, with seasonal north-south, south-north and altitudinal migrants occuring in warmer and cooler months collectively
Purple-gaped Honeyeater. Photo: Holger Teichmann
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Crested Shrike-tit or Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Gilbert’s whistler, Shy Heathwren, Variegated Fairywren, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Australian Ringneck and White-fronted Honeyeater. Rainbow Bee-eater (summer), Black-chinned Honeyeater, Diamond Firetail, Brown Treecreeper, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Speckled Warbler, Restless Flycatcher, Weebill tBlack-eared Cuckoo, Masked Woodswallow, Black Honeyeater, Cockatiel and Southern Whiteface.
Wetlands and swamps fringing Port Philip Bay and Western Port Bay offer myriad sites where wildfowl, pelicans, herons & egrets, spoonbills & ibis, crakes & rails and cormorants & darters can be found. Tidal influence in many coastal environments creates mudflats and shorelines that in the austral summer attract thousands of wader migrating from breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere. These areas also provide habitat for a large suite of resident & migratory terns, gulls & jaegers and the many resident wading birds that can be found in Southern Victoria.
Coastal headlands and ocean beaches offer the chance of observing different species again, with birds like Hooded Plover, Rufous Bristlebird, Australasian Gannet, Black-faced Cormorant and Kelp Gull. Depending on conditions, pelagic seabirds such as albatross, shearwaters, petrels and terns can sometimes be seen close inshore, and there are many prominent headlands from which to watch for these. Little Penguins are commonly found in southern waters and are world famous at the Phillip Island Penguin Parade.
Australian Spotted Crake. Photo: Holger Teichmann
Examples of these include Eastern Curlew (summer), Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (summer), Latham’s Snipe (summer), Double-banded Plover (winter), Red-necked Avocet & Banded Stilt (nomadic), Red-kneed Dotterel (nomadic), Pied Oystercatcher, Fairy Tern, Whiskered Tern (summer) and White-fronted Tern (winter).
It is not uncommon to see flocks of a thousand or more Pink-eared Duck put to flight by a Swamp Harrier cruising past, or see literally hundreds and hundreds of Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper spread out over the mudflats feeding frantically in order to maximize energy reserves for their northern migration to the Arctic Circle. Hordes of Hoary-headed Grebe patter away across the water on your approach, while huge numbers of Australian Shelduck take off in unison to feed in nearby fallow fields.
There are designated birding routes set out by Melbourne Water for the best locations to view birds and these are what we will traverse in our exploration of the area.
The Western Treatment Plant is also famous for the fact that it supports a small number of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. During the winter months a handful of these parrots migrate from breeding grounds in Tasmania and utilize areas of saltmarsh habitat found along sections of the coast for specific food resources. The survival of this species in no small part owes itself to the plant’s existence and decades of careful habitat management by Melbourne Water.
Join us for some fantastic birding – you won’t be disappointed!!
Flame Robin. Photo: Steve Davidson
Birds we can expect to see on a tour of the plant include Cape Barren Goose, Australian Shelduck, Pink-eared Duck, Blue-billed Duck, Musk Duck, Chestnut Teal, Pied Cormorant, Royal Spoonbill, Straw-necked Ibis, Whistling Kite, Swamp Harrier, Brown Falcon, Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Whiskered Tern, Golden-headed Cisticola, Striated Fieldwren, Flame Robin and Yellow-rumped Thornbill.
Less common species include Lewin’s Rail, Spotless Crake, Fairy Tern, Blue-winged Parrot, Great Knot, Eastern Curlew, Grey-tailed Tattler, White-winged Black Tern, Pacific Golden Plover, Black Falcon, Australasian Bittern, Banded Lapwing, Wood Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit and White-bellied Sea-eagle.
However it is the large number of rarities that have been seen here that the plant is famous for. Waders feature most notably and include Long-toed Stint, Little Stint, Stilt sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Australian Painted Snipe, Lesser Yellowlegs, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Oriental Pratincole, Little Curlew, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Ruff, Red-necked Phalarope and Hudsonian Godwit.
Other vagrant species that have turned up include Franklins Gull, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Northern Shoveler, Arctic Tern, Brown Skua, Plains Wanderer and Orange Chat.
Meeting time is at 9.10am outside the Werribee Railway Station, Melway Ref 205 J7, 2009 Ed. The first Werribee train leaves from Flinders Street at 8.21am on the Werribee line for those who wish to use public transport.
From here we will transfer to one vehicle and take the short drive to the plant.